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Google Core Update: What Is It And What You Should Do To Stay Afloat
2. Asking experts: what do they think about Core Update
2.1 What signifies it was a core update?
2.2 Which impact did it have at the top of the SERPs?
2.3 What do you think of the recent situation with featured snippets?
2.4 Which niches are usually winners/losers during the Core Google Updates?
2.5 Which are the signs you've been hit by a Core Google Update?
2.6 Google says you can't recover from a Core Update: is this true?
2.7 What is thought to be part of a Core Update, but is not?
2.8 How to minimize the damage from the future Core Google Updates?
2.9 What will be Google's next steps?
3. Summing up
What is Google Core Update and why it is important
Change of positions. Any update to the Google algorithm, whether it is a core update or just a change in the interface, causes a change in search results. Some sites become winners of this lottery, others - fall out of the race leaders, and others - don't feel any changes.
Besides, updates can affect CTR in search results, as some website owners notice an increase or decrease in traffic after the update. According to Search Engine Land, last year Google made more than 3200 changes. Still, changes to the basic search algorithm appear only several times a year, and significant core updates occur approximately once a quarter.
Google periodically makes changes to its core ranking algorithm and calls these updates the Broad Core Algorithm Update.
Search representatives claim that there are 3 crucial components of the main algorithm: Content, Links, and RankBrain.
And in total, there are more than 200 ranking factors, each of which contributes.
Thus, it becomes clear that the changes affected not just one factor but a whole series. In the case of a fall or growth of individual sites, this requires a detailed analysis of each particular case, since the reasons can be completely different.
Asking experts: what do they think about Core Update
RankRanger Marketing Director Mordy Oberstein noted that the YMYL niche (Your money or Your life) had been hugely affected: such niches as Health and Finance, and increases in all areas if looking at the top 10 results, except for the Retail segment.
SEMRush noted that the latest Google update was quite large and affected almost all categories. The most volatile categories are Sports and News, Games, Arts and Entertainment, and Finance. At the same time, SEMRush added that significant changes were seen in all categories, so this update was not directed at any specific topic.
Sistrix has traditionally published an analysis of the Google update on its blog. According to the company, during this update, domains related to the YMYL theme were revised by the search algorithm, which led to changes in visibility. However, domains that have already been affected by such updates are likely to be hit again. Moreover, Google is becoming more accurate in its estimates and doesn't differ significantly from the previous assessments.
SearchMetrics founder Markus Tober noted that the January Core Update turned some of the previous changes for better or worse, depending on the site. This is another update to the main algorithm, where Google focused on YMYL. This update didn't seem to affect as many pages as March or September. But it has similar characteristics.
According to the data presented, the update was broad, involved almost all categories, and brought both improvements and losses.
We had a great Twitter chat about Core Update and asked questions that could shed more light on this area. This Twitter chat featured many great experts. See their answers below.
What signifies it was a core update?
Which impact did it have at the top of the SERPs?
Some of the results hit also seemed to be "shallow" in regard to the depth/breadth of what the page(s) covered. Again - another hallmark of ad-rev based sites is thinner content meant to generate clicks and views, not serve users/visitors (searchers).
Following that, you can look at the variety of terms within an associated topic (think of Head terms, mid-length phrases and long-tail terms). It's hard to be an authoritative site and not cover various terms. Whereas those attempting to rank for X, target X heavily, and often omit related/associated terms.
Rather than impacting shorter phrases, it seems to have cleaned up/out pages that were ranking for terms than the pages shouldn't really have done so for.
I think the key term is "salesy". Google is looking at info-queries and trying to return info-pages. Pages that are "pushing" and "promoting" may not be a good fit. It's like going for a financial adviser, and them trying to sell you various products :(
What do you think of the recent situation with featured snippets?
1) see the effect of losing the search result
2) see if it is more convenient to maintain the featured snippet or the search result
3) consider that if we lose the search result, we may lose rich results
4) take a decision
Traffic and visibility slightly decreased, but on pages that that received "useless" bouncing traffic.
On the contrary, (micro)goals, conversions and revenue improved.
Which niches are usually winners/losers during the Core Google Updates?
Though you often see more movement/shifting in the YMYL areas, you also see the ripples in lesser areas. No one is "spared" or "immune". That's because it's a general alteration, rather than one targeting specific terms.
Rather, the focus seems to be on identifying pages/sites that don't satisfy their users or don't provide as much value as certain other pages/sites. The hardship is that even if you are a "good site", with "good pages", you may still suffer.
Which are the signs you've been hit by a Core Google Update?
Google says you can't recover from a Core Update: is this true?
They are targeting core signals so that can be just one or many, I have ONLY seen serious technical issues though I know others have said they have seen some other items related to content.
But in the case of technology, they were specific and very severe.
Remember if your site went down others went up, so they are doing something the algorithms liked better and it will be related to site quality or content relevance most likely.
Let the update run, and note who and what gets impacted, and by how much. Then, (whilst waiting and not touching anything!), look for commonalities and correlations between those things. Make sure your ducks are also lined up. If you have technical issues or stuffed things up before the update ... you may be confusing symptoms and causes, or even magnifying the effects due to whatever the update is looking at.
Though many sites have various issues, they are unlikely to drop solely due to that. That would imply that the CU's are targeting specific ranking signals, or punishing the lack of specific optimizations, etc.
It's also worth noting that Google sometimes likes to multi-task or do rapid shuffles. They may push the main CU, and make a few other adjustments at the same time.
What is thought to be part of a Core Update, but is not?
How can you try to minimize the damage from the future Core Google Updates?
You cannot 100% prevent it, but if you get as close to perfect as possible on CORE issues you are pretty safe. I have never had a site I am working on getting hit by an update negatively. Technical is the first thing you MUST check because if Google cannot properly crawl and index your site the rest does not matter.
You have to take a long hard look at what was impacted, and what wasn't - on your site and your competitors. Then look at some other sites (non-competitors), and see if you can see a similar impact, and any commonalities. Only when you have data and information should you start planning changes. You need to compare what failed against what succeeded. Then plan adjustments accordingly. This may require content revisions or some house cleaning. But you shouldn't do anything drastic in one big rush. Pick a section, hammer it out, and see what happens. If you get the results you expect, then repeat elsewhere. If not, look again, and implement another set of improvements. Repeat.
Featured Snippets. There isn't really anything you can do. Google has opted to remove any "listing" that matched the Featured Snippets URI. There's no "fixing" that.
You have to now wait and see what the CTR/Traffic data tell you has happened! You're going to have to take the new figures and compare them to previous and try to estimate the CTR/Traffic value of the now de-duplicated duplicate URI and hope that if there is a deficit, it's minor.
But - don't focus on that too much!
2) the strategy you were following not necessarily is wrong.
3) this doesn't mean you mustn't review it and improve it eventually
4) look at damned SERPs and how they changed
5) work... and somehow try to isolate yourself from the noise. Concentrate on the site and the people it targets. Review any potential tech issue (the core update touches all the factors, also tech ones.) Create content that really answers search intents.
Baseline: regular site audits + monitoring of search console (technical errors); creation of uniquely valuable content that makes your readers' lives better. Marketing of that content to people likely to be interested.
Next: In-depth technical audits + updates (i.e. proactively make things better, don't stop at making sure they aren't broken); periodic, unbiased evaluation of current site relative to QR guidelines (since this is where Google says they *want* the algo to go).
1) avoid diluted efforts by publishing #content pieces that stray off track of your business goals/topics.
2) respond and fix issues quickly.
3) have a strong team that stays fluid with you.
What will be Google's next steps?
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